Reflecting on Engage! Cleveland's Journey & Future

Reflecting on Engage! Cleveland's Journey & Future

Written by: Evan Ishida

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In 2010 a group of young professional (YP) leaders came together to discuss ways to connect YPs and to reduce the fragmentation of organizations looking to serve this demographic. We would do this by 1) Facilitating collaboration across the 70+ YP organizations, 2) Connecting YPs to institutions and organizations, 3) Helping employers attract and retain talent, and 4) Helping nonprofits involve more YPs in their work.

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These young professional leaders represented organizations such as the Cleveland Professional 20/30 Club, the Young Latino Network, MotivAsians, the Cleveland YP Senate, and Cleveland Connexion. This group worked closely with the business, nonprofit, and civic communities to gain the support needed to hire a full time staff person and begin working on a very ambitious business plan. United unveiling

As a member of the founding team and current Board Chair of Engage! Cleveland, I’ve seen a lot of growth and resilience since our start in 2010. What started as an idea hatched over several happy hours has grown into a stable organization with unlimited potential. We continue to adapt to the needs of the young professional community as we focus on our ability to connect and engage them. By doing this, YPs are becoming attracted to a city with such vibrant opportunities. Today, we reach over 24,000 YPs as we raise awareness of opportunities for engagement, and make real connections to peers and organizations through unique events and programming. My term as Board Chair is coming to a close. I feel incredibly optimistic about the continued work of this amazing organization. While Cleveland is certainly on the rise, there’s still a lot more to do if we’re going to be a city where YPs can grow their community and their careers. The leadership of our first Executive Director and now President, Ashley Basile Oeken has been phenomenal and will continue as we grow our team.


I also look forward to the leadership of our incoming Chair, Ira Kaplan, as his experience and passion will guide Engage! Cleveland’s sustained growth. I want to say thanks to the founding leaders who have spent countless hours and energy to get Engage! Cleveland to this point. It has been a joy and an honor to serve with my fellow co-founders and outgoing Executive Committee members, Andrew Bennett, Gary Shamis, and Kim Pesses. I also want to give a special shout out to the hundreds of volunteers and participants who have chosen to “engage” Cleveland. You are why we do this.